Edmund’s stomach dropped.
“Why not?” Edmund asked. “It’s happened before. Feddric Bonne married Pollina Moulde–”
“Neither Pollina nor Fredric were heirs,” Matron Scower snapped. “You are. Besides, that was generations ago, and started the whole trouble between the Bonnes and the Mouldes in the first place. We can’t let another feud sprout up because of you, so we are not going to give consent and we are not going to sign the document as witnesses. Now give up this foolish idea and go back to playing with your toys.”
“It’s not that it wasn’t clever, my lad,” Matron Cromley said, sympathetically. “It was, rather. Quite clever indeed, for such a young age. If I knew Matron wouldn’t let anyone else do her dirty work, I would have thought she had planned this for you.”
“But we’ll go back to fighting!” Edmund protested. “The Mouldes and the Bonnes will keep on struggling and nothing will ever get done! And if the Moulde family fails, then the other families will all fight each other to pick at the corpse–you can’t want that to happen!”
“Oh my dear boy,” Matron Cromley looked shocked. “Of course not! No, we don’t want that to happen at all! In fact, we would love to let you marry that young gel.”
“Nevertheless,” Patron Vanndegaar frowned, fingering his cane.
Edmund stopped, the world crystallizing in his mind. He looked at the three of them, their faces expectantly waiting for him to respond. Edmund nodded, slowly, and took the three writs of investment out of his pocket.
“How did you know?” he asked.
“Don’t take us for fools,” Patron Vanndegaar sneered, glancing at the writ before tearing it to tiny pieces and throwing it in the burning fireplace.
“Take it as a complement, my lad.” Matron Cromley tore hers in half, then quarters, and dropped it into a nearby cup of tea. “After this evening, I don’t think any of us doubted you had some sort of leverage to make us sign if we refused.”
“And anything that could convince Tricknee to agree with a Moulde is something we don’t want in your hands.” Matron Scower simply folded hers, and tucked it away into her dress.
“Now, there’s that little bit of business done,” Matron Cromley continued with a smile as she stood and walked to the wedding contract, plucking up the pen and shaking it. “I’m sure you’ll both be very happy together.”
“But Tricknee hasn’t signed it yet,” Edmund said.
“He will,” Matron Scower said, standing with the help of Patron Vanndegaar. “Especially now that our names are on it. And since we’re all… I suppose friends now, I have to ask you. How on earth did you manage to wrangle your cousins together? I’ve never seen them refrain from insulting each other like this. I’m forced to wonder if you’re not some sort of young genius. What would you say to that?”
“I think his actions speak for themselves,” came a sharp crackling voice from the doorway. Edmund’s heart jumped as he saw Matron Mander Moulde, standing just inside the room like a statue, glaring at the small assembly.